Our next Music, Film & Sport Memorabilia auction includes over 40 lots consigned by singer and 1970s rock band Cockney Rebel frontman Steve Harley.
The band were best known for the band's number one hit ‘Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)’, which has been covered at least 120 times and appears on soundtracks as diverse as The Full Monty, Lego Rock Band, and a Marks & Spencer’s advert.
Harley continues writing and performing music to this day (including a current UK tour which will be in Bury St Edmunds in December). Harley began his musical career at the start of the 1970s, mainly performing at open-mike nights in folk venues and busking around London. He soon moved on to writing his own music and formed Cockney Rebel in late 1972. An early acrimonious split with the original band line-up during a fractious tour, led Harley to write Make Me Smile as a rebuttal to his former bandmates for leaving.
In an era of outrageous fashion which included bell-bottoms, platform shoes and hotpants as everyday wear, stage performers had to go the extra mile. An explosion in the production of synthetic materials, coupled with a widespread rejection of conventional dress standards led to bright colours, elaborate styles and androgynous fashion.
Glam Rock in particular gave us flamboyant performers wearing glitter make up and satin trousers, as well Tartan suits and sparkly top-hats. Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel never quite ran with this aesthetic, but worked with designers to create a distinctive look to suit his musical style.
As Harley himself has stated "The first Cockney Rebel wore lurex clown suits, two green, two blue and my own in black. We never felt part of the Glam Rock movement, but there was a real theatricality about my early songs and it seemed natural to portray ourselves with a theatrical image."
One of the designers Harley worked with was William Elphinstone Gibb (1943 –1988) (known as Billy), who was renowned in the 60s & 70s for his unusual designs. He also undertook freelance commissions for Twiggy amongst others, worked with London fashion house Baccarat, had his own shop on Bond Street, and in 1970 was given a dedicated showcase area in Harrod’s. This collection includes this fabulous oriental-inspired costume from the 1976 world tour;
"Photographer Mick Rock introduced me to Billy, a soft-spoken man with the kindness of a saint in his eyes. He didn't design menswear, only women's haute couture, but Billy and his cutters and seamstresses seemed to become quietly excited at the prospect. We went for it, all right. Acres of rare Chinese silk, a hood, red satin lining, folds and pleats to the ground; the outfit brought a slight air of mystery to the dressing-rooms, even if some of the chaps did mock. The hand embroidery was overseen by Billy's head seamstress, a fabulous Greek woman, Nevis. The costume shared the stage with me in many towns and countries during the '76 world tour."
Elsewhere in the collection there is an original 7" single of Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) hand written to the sleeve "By the time you receive this we hope it will be no 1", tour booklets, backstage passes, programmes and many other vinyl items. A little know fact is that Harley was originally cast in the eponymous role in Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1986 production of The Phantom of The Opera (before being replaced by Michael Crawford); lot 1014 in the sale is Harley's script for the musical alongside a copy of the accompanying single which he recorded with Sarah Brightman and reached No.7 in the UK charts.
The auction will take place on Friday 16th September from 2pm.
Viewing Thursday 15th 10am-7pm and Friday morning from 9am.